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Building for Hurricanes?

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I grew up and lived most of my life in the West (Washington, Nevada and California), with educational sojourns in Michigan and New York. I now live in NYC. My personal acquaintance with hurricanes is nil. But I am watching with horror as storm after storm sweeps over Florida and the Southeast, and the tail ends of some of them wreak smaller havoc here.


The other day on NPR there was a hurricane expert from Florida International University who was asked if there was any ecological upside to hurricanes, as there is to some forest fires, which are necessary for some plants to regenerate, and seem to be part of a natural cycle. The expert didn't understand the question, but answered that the good thing about hurricanes is that you get lots of warning and that we now know how to build to avoid significant damage. That brought to mind a remark my secretary, who is from the Dominican Republic, made, to the effect that since her house in the DR is built of concrrete, including the roof, all they have to do is close the shutters, and wait it out.


Looking at the pictures of property devastation after these storms makes me wonder more and more whether there are construction and design solutions to hurricane damage. Any storm-ravaged Hoo-ers out there with knowledge or experience of better ways to survive what looks now like a period of intensified storm activity?

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there are two issues. first, is where people should built and not build and second, types of construction. there are certain small islands that are really large sandbars where there should be no building. there is only building in these places because there is government insurance to cover the loss. people build, hurricanes destroy, the insurance cover the loos, people rebuild, etc.


second, there are building methods that can with stand the hurricanes. i have a relative who has an ocean front condo in a new building. the windows can withstand 200 mile an hour winds! the building is designed to take a storm head-on. the drawback is it is expensive.

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My aunt and uncle both live right where the eyes of Frances and Jeanne made landfall. My aunt's home was essentially destroyed by Frances, and my uncle's was sufficiently damaged by Jeanne that he will have to move. They both lived in mobile homes. Aside from houses and apartment buildings on the beachfront and barrier islands, most of the serious damage is to mobile homes inland, which are fairly flimsy.


Why did they live in such a building in such a location? Because it was CHEAP! Many people, including millions of retirees, are drawn to Florida not only by the warm weather, but also because it is possible to live inexpensively in mobile homes and houses that don't cost much to buy or build, and don't cost much to maintain. Florida also has no state income tax. Why don't they prepare for the possibility of hurricanes? Because they haven't happened often enough to convince residents it's worth spending the kind of money necessary to protect themselves. My aunt and uncle lived there for a quarter century without being affected by hurricanes--they always swerved in another direction, or turned out to be less powerful than predicted--so of course they assumed the same thing would happen again.


Florida has a building code that requires that new buildings be able to withstand certain wind speeds, but it exempts areas of the state where there hasn't been a lot of wind damage in the past, like Pensacola; now they plan to change that, after the damage has been done, of course. The problem is retrofitting older buildings, and nothing effective can be done about mobile homes, which cannot be made hurricane-proof. It would be politically impossible to ban mobile homes, so we will probably be seeing many more hurricane stories like these in future years.


I live on the San Andreas Fault. Have I done anything special to protect my home against earthquakes? Nope.

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>I live on the San Andreas Fault. Have I done anything special

>to protect my home against earthquakes? Nope.


And you aren't upset that the federal government has not created a Department of Earthquake Security?


If the money we spent on frisking shoeless grandmothers at the Amarillo airport and elsewhere, were spent on upgrading buildings in California and Florida, we wouldn't be able to say that natural disasters will cause more preventable deaths in the next 30 years, than terrorist attacks.

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